Brenda Gardner

Brenda Gardner smiles as she shows off her creative workings in Art Alley.

Brenda Gardner, owner of the Art Alley & Frame Clinic of Court Street, has been doing art for many years. Her mom was an artist, and she started doing art at her mom’s insistence. Now, she continues the legacy through her store but with a few additions of her own.

The Art Alley & Frame Clinic is a little shop just off of Main Street that sells all kinds of art treasures; in addition, they offer art restoration and art framing as well as a barbershop in the back.

While Gardner’s career as an artist was influenced by her mom, her career as a barber was influenced by her daughter. Gardner’s barbering career began when her daughter was diagnosed with a permanent chronic kidney disease. Her daughter was the youngest case in the world to be diagnosed with the disease, so the doctors didn’t know how to treat her. Gardner said that the doctors were often unsure how much medication to give her and exactly what to do. In the face of such circumstances, Gardner decided to become a barber so that she could be home to take care of her daughter.

At some point after the diagnosis when her daughter was three years old, they moved to Lawrenceburg to get away from tall buildings. Her young daughter had come to associate tall buildings with the hospitals she had been to so much and would scream and cry whenever she saw a tall building.

Once in Lawrenceburg, Gardner opened a business doing hair and became the first female barber in Anderson County; however, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. As Gardner explained, “When I moved here as a single mom, the bank president told me to go get a husband if I wanted to borrow money to start a business.” Fortunately, she was able to get started with help from an older lady in business. “An older woman in business called me and said if I would carry in cash to the bank and make him deposit it himself, she and her best friend would loan me the money, and they did.”

She has now had the hair part of her business for 45 years, and despite the challenging circumstances, Gardner’s daughter survived and made it through her kidney disease. Since then Gardner’s daughter has gone on to work for the University of Louisville hospital, and Gardner still does hair in the back of her current shop, Art Alley.

At some point after the recovery of her daughter, she decided to finish her art minor. She said that she was lying in bed one day when God told her to finish her art minor. She said that she didn’t want to but that God told her He was serious. She ended up enrolling in an art restoration school where she learned art framing and art restoration which she has now been doing for 26 years.

When reflecting on doing art with her mom, Gardner said that it was something they could do together, and when asked why she enjoyed art, she said: “It heals my very soul! I get lost in it. When doing it I have no past, no trade gym or sadness. I become one with my project. I consider everything I do as an art form. Every head is a blank canvas. I don’t do anything I do not have a passion for. Too old to be otherwise!”

She has now had the Art Alley & Frame Clinic for 6 ½ years, and her business sells a variety of art including paintings, stained glass, jewelry, carpentry, forged metal, and more. She also offers painting and stained-glass classes, provides art framing services, does art restoration, and, of course, still has a little barber shop in the back.